Retargeting Gains Traction, Part 2

What retargeting is, what it isn't, and some agency best practices. Second of a two-part series.

In Part 1 of this series, we reviewed the background of the practice known as re-targeting. Here’s some other information good agencies should know.

Common Fallacies & Truths about Retargeting

One obstacle to implementing a retargeted campaign is advertiser push-back, particularly from retailers who may be concerned that the retargeting process will impact their user experience, site performance, or data exposure. So I asked the various players some common questions:

  • Is implementing retargeting pixels on the site is difficult to execute?
  • The implementation itself isn’t at all technically difficult. The advertiser’s (or their IT department’s) willingness (or the window of opportunity to do so in a timely fashion) can make things difficult.

  • Can retargeting pixels slow site load time? A single network’s pixel isn’t likely to slow site load, but multiple pixels may, since multiple calls to different servers are made at the same time. This is particularly true if one of the servers can’t handle the load. As a safeguard, contain the number of networks in a single retargeting campaign or confine the campaign to networks with larger capacities.

  • Is the advertiser’s conversion data exposed to the network For retargeting specifically focused on conversions, there does have to be a pixel on the conversion page, but not all conversion data must be passed along or exposed to the network. The pixel can be set up to only capture campaign-critical information, not all sales or conversion information. The rest of the advertiser’s data would remain protected.

  • Are inventory concerns a problem with retargeting? Retargeting is hindered more by the number of unique visitors to a site than by available ad inventory. Still, frequency caps and brands that may be blocked by a site publisher can impact a retargeting campaign.

  • Is retargeting a type of spyware? No, retargeting is not spyware. Retargeting does rely on user cookies, though, so if a user refuses or deletes cookies, they simply won’t be exposed to retargeted ads.

Agency Best Practices for Retargeting

As with any other campaign, a good retargeting campaign comes from good advance planning and strategy. Here are some best practices and components to keep in mind to help achieve a successful retargeting campaign:

  • Retargeting Requires a Well Thought-Out Plan
  • Since retargeting is like a decision tree, it requires advanced planning to help define a consumer’s future intention, motivation and action. “Fifty percent of today’s retargeting campaigns have little thought process behind them,” says’s Eric Eller.

  • Maximize Site Traffic During a Retargeting Campaign The greater user pool exposed to the retargeting cookie, the more the advertiser increases the chance their retargeting will work. Don’t launch a retargeting campaign in a vacuum or during a slow time of year and expect it to perform at its peak.

  • Use Subtle Creative Messaging The message to the consumer shouldn’t glaringly refer to their previous uncompleted action on the advertiser’s site. Instead, it should have elements that relate to that site and perhaps a new or better offer to motivate them to return to the original site.

  • Test Various Calls-to-Action For one consumer, a discount may hook them; for another, free shipping. Don’t assume a single offer has universal appeal. Retargeting allows you to serve different ad offers to the same user within the recent period of their visit to the advertiser’s site.

  • Have Complete Creative Ad Size Coverage Since no one can predict where a user may go after leaving the advertiser’s site, it’s important to have a full range of sized ads available to the ad network so it can serve the appropriately-sized retargeted ads for that publisher’s site and not miss the opportunity to reach the user. Don’t forget rich media options.

  • Consider layering other targeting criteria When it’s relevant and the audience is large enough.

  • Some networks offer more direct help with planning and executing retargeting campaigns Ask if you’re interested.

  • Capitalize on Successful Purchasers – establish a “second audience” objective. Once a consumer makes a purchase, they are moved into a pool of consumers likely to make similar purchases in the future and ads are served to them accordingly. Also, study which ad messages and Web sites drove the successful retargeted action so replication of that kind of message and ad buy can be done in the future.

Retargeting is by no means a simple ad buy relying on simply cool creative. Successful retargeting campaigns can generate incredible numbers, but don’t proceed without solid forethought and planning.

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